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AGP03: Robert Erickson

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AGP03: Robert Erickson




After two hardcore electroacoustic installments, the third AGP installment offers something more melodious. The composer of all four tracks, Robert Erickson, was born in 1917 and was a founding member of the Music Department at University of California San Diego, starting in 1966. He wrote a number of books, including Sound Structures in Music (1975).

Night Music is the standout piece in this set, and is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard. It is based around the agile, sinuous trumpet playing of David Burkhart, supported by flute, clarinets, trombone, cello, bass, and percussion. If the first two AGP installments have been too chaotic for your taste, check out this lovely meditative fantasy. It starts off quite softly for the first few minute--no adjustment to your equipment is necessary.

The other three tracks fill out the remaining Erickson pieces I was able to find in my stacks (minus Pacific Sirens, which is currently in print). The Idea of Order at Key West features the soprano Carol Plantamura singing Wallace Stevens’ poem, backed by flute, clarinet, Burkhart’s trumpet, viola, and cello. It includes some nice harmonies and ensemble scoring. General Speech is an interesting novelty piece in which Stuart Dempster plays trombone while forming his mouth around the words of General Eisenhower’s retirement speech at West Point. The timbres that result are intriguing, and one can even somewhat follow what is being said. End of the Mime is a choral piece to a text from Finnegan’s Wake.

These tracks were drawn from CRI releases SD 325 and SD 494, and New Order Records NW 254. The text file has liner notes from all three LPs, including biographical material on Robert Erickson and the lead musicians as well as commentary on the pieces.


Label / Recorded by Avant Garde Project

Notes

The Avant Garde Project is a series of 20th-century classical-experimental-electroacoustic torrents digitized from LPs whose music has in most cases never been released on CD, and so is effectively inaccessible to the vast majority of music listeners today. This is wild stuff, so check it out if you've never heard this sort of music before. The analog rig used to extract the sound from the grooves is near state-of-the-art, producing almost none of the tracking distortion or surface noise normally associated with LPs.

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